Sri Lanka History

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Sent: 30 May 2009 21:32
Subject: Government Camps for the Internally Displaced from the Conflict in Sri Lanka Request Assistance from the Church

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Saturday, May 30, 2009

Government Camps for the Internally Displaced from the Conflict in Sri Lanka Request Assistance from the Church

By Michael Ireland
Chief Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

VANNI, SRI LANKA (ANS) An outreach of the church in Sri Lanka has been approached by the government there to help provide assistance to Internally Displaced persons (IDP) as a result of the long-running conflict which recently ended in a government victory over the rebel Tamil Tigers.

According to an e-mail report, obtained by ASSIST News, from Karen Dey who heads up New Living Ministries International: “In March our church ministry team in Jaffna had a desire to provide aid into the IDP (Internally Displaced People Camps) in Jaffna, but at that time the Sri Lankan Government was not allowing anyone to visit the camps. In March there were just four camps in Jaffna, but as the conflict was increasing, the amount of people fleeing from the conflict zone increased.”

Dey says that by April the camps in Jaffna “were not able to cope with this sudden influx of the large amounts of people arriving.

“We were contacted by the local authorities in charge of the camps requesting urgent assistance into the camps. There are now 12 camps with between 200 – 1,700 people in each camp,” she said.

“We began taking teams of seven people from our church ministry team into each camp. On visiting the camps we were requested by the army and the people in the camp to provide essential items that the army was not able to provide for them.

“Many of these people have been hiding in bunkers for months and are traumatized, exhausted and severely malnourished. The camps are severely overcrowded and unable to meet the basic food and shelter needs of those who are arriving. Most of the camps are without decent water and sanitation facilities. Those detained in these camps, which are surrounded by barbed-wire fences, are denied their liberty or freedom. They are not allowed to leave the camps, and visiting is severely restricted. By God’s Grace our church has been able to enter many of these camps now.”

Dey goes on to say that many children have witnessed terrible scenes as they escaped to safety.

“Some saw their parents killed or were separated from them during the journey. These children will need intensive counselling in the near future. The sense of fear amongst those in the camp is strong, unsure of what the future holds,” she said.

“For the past month we have been visiting the camps on a weekly basis providing families with such items as babies milk bottles, milk powder, flasks for hot water, Nestamalt build-up for children, supplementary food items, medications, milk powder for adults, soap, babies’ and children’s clothing, sarongs for men and saris and dresses for ladies.”

Dey says that many war victims are also in the Jaffna teaching hospital and other local hospitals in Jaffna.

“Most are suffering from severe burns, bullet and shrapnel wounds. Our teams have been visiting these hospitals and providing the patients affected by the war with meals, and any medications requested by the hospital. We have also assisted to provide to the hospitals with such things as vitamins and food supplements, waterbeds for burns patients, burns clothing, colostomy bags, replacement glass eyes, and Jaipur Limbs.”

Dey said that New Living Ministries International is at present working with two children in the Jaffna hospital, Mythili, a 9-year-old girl, and Subashkaran, an 11-year-old boy, who have no parents or guardians.

“When they were escaping out of the Vanni area their family was catching a boat together when shelling started. The children were pulled into the boat but their parents were left behind. We are not sure if their parents are alive so have requested that these children to be released to our care once they are discharged from hospital. Both are being treated for bullet and shrapnel wounds.”

Dey explained that the A9, the only road into Jaffna, remains closed to private vehicles.

“So the only way to provide these essential items to the camps and hospital is by purchasing them from the shops in Jaffna. Each time we visit a camp we need around £800GBP ($1,295USD) to purchase the necessary goods to distribute to the camp people.

“To date we have managed to do this thanks to donations from our own churches in Sri Lanka, and abroad, but we are now seeking financial help from other sources so that we can continue this work into the IDP camps and hospitals in Jaffna.”

** Michael Ireland, Chief Correspondent of ANS, is an international British freelance journalist who was formerly a reporter with a London (United Kingdom) newspaper and has been a frequent contributor to UCB Europe, a British Christian radio station. Michael has traveled to Albania and the former Yugoslavia, Holland, Germany and the former Czechoslovakia, Israel,and Canada. He has reported for ANS from Jordan, China, Russia, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nicaragua. Michael’s volunteer involvement with ASSIST News Service is a sponsored ministry department — Michael Ireland Media Missionary (MIMM) — of A.C.T. International at: Artists in Christian Testimony (A.C.T.) International where you can donate online to support his stated mission of ‘Truth Through Christian Journalism.’

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